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A brightly original and, for once, entirely positive take on the planet Earth, Vivan las Antipodas! is standout documentary with the curious premise that, given the ocean mass, only a few inhabited places are exactly opposite each other on this planet, like Argentina and Shanghai, or Hawaii and Botswana. This exquisitely shot and produced travelogue compares not just places but the people, flora and fauna who are “upside down” from one another. Hypnotic traveling shots and twisted perspectives add another feather in the cap of prize-winning Russian cameraman and director Victor Kossakovsky. A panoramic festival run is assured, followed by sales to all the upscale TV channels who weren’t part of the international coproduction.
The contemplative nature of the film won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and those looking for drama, conflict and strong narrative would be better off with a Disney nature series. This film takes a contemplative tack, preferring to focus on simple, uncomplicated folk who live in the most beautiful, remote locations in the world. Kossakovsky, who did the editing as well as the dazzling camerawork, moves comfortably between his antipodes once he sets them up. By the end of the film, the Earth is criss-crossed with mini-narratives that give a sense of the grand family of human beings and, overall, how beautiful and varied our world is.
For the record, it’s almost 8,000 miles straight through the center of the earth from one antipode to another. The makeshift houses of two men in Entre Rios, Argentina, who earn two pesos from each rickety vehicle that crosses their pontoon bridge over the river, is at the antipodes from the grand suspension bridges and crowded ferries of Shanghai, China.
While the locals of Castle Point, New Zealand struggle to bury a beached whale, insects are crawling over an ancient rock in the Spanish mountains. A hermit lives with his cats, sheep and condors in Patagonia, Chile while his polar opposite, a Russian woman, lives alone in her house on majestic Lake Baikal.
It would be hard to choose the film’s most exotic and awe-inspiring location, but Big Island, Hawaii with its fields of burning black lava is certainly a candidate, while no less surprising is its antipodes of Kubu, Botswana where a woman calmly observes herds of elephants, giraffes and lions from her village kiosk.
Though dialogue is scarce, there is plenty of enjoyable, high-contrast musical commentary that overlays the visuals, including Alexander Popov’s imaginative scores. The unusual camerawork includes many horizontally split images showing simultaneous views of “the world upside down.” Apart from these impressive visual jokes, Kossakovsky experiments with panoramic images turned 90° that once more views the world from a new perspective..
Venue: Venice Film Festival (Out of competition)
Production companies: Film House Germany, Ma.Ja.De Filmproduktions, Lemming Film BV, Gema Films/Producciones Aplaplac, NHK, ZDF/Arte, WDR, VPRO:
Director: Victor Kossakovsky
Screenwriter: Victor Kossakovsky
Executive producers: Alexander Rodnyansky, Gema Juarez Allen, Eva-Maria Weerts, Christian Angermayer, Achim Pfeffer.
Producer: Heino Deckert
Co-producers: Leontine Petit, Marleen Slot, Joost De Vries, Gema Juarez Allen, Juan Manuel Egana
Director of photography: Victor Kossakovsky
Music: Alexander Popov
Editor: Victor Kossakovsky
Sales Agent: Deckert Distribution
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